Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton

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Iodine Protects Against Breast Cancer

by Barbara Minton
See all TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton

(The Best Years in Life) Iodine is an overlooked mineral, yet its importance to overall health and well being cannot be overstated. Iodine is critical for the formation of thyroid hormone. People who have difficulty losing weight even though they eat small portions of health promoting foods are probably short on iodine. Iodine deficiency can lead to dull brittle hair, balding, lack of skin tone, low energy levels, difficulty dealing with environmental temperature change, poor concentration, constipation, depression, and extreme fatigue. And there is one more manifestation of low iodine. Scientists now believe that iodine deficiency plays a role in the development of breast cancer.

The thyroid-breast cancer connection

Scientists at the University of California have determined there is indeed a thyroid disease-breast cancer relationship. Both diseases are female predominant, with identifiable biological pathways, and genetic and environmental determinants. They believe that viewing thyroid disease and breast cancer together is necessary for understanding, treatment and prevention.

These scientists determined that the low risk of breast cancer seen in women with optimal thyroid hormone and ample iodine results from the ability of these compounds to generate appropriate cell death (apoptosis). When cells die on cue, breast cancer is thwarted, and they suspect the reverse is also true. In women with low thyroid hormone production and iodine deficiency, the risk is increased that cancerous cells do not die but instead continue to grow and divide.

Why many people are iodine deficient

Health conscious people expect conventional produce to be grown in soils deficient in essential minerals. They may be surprised to find out that organic produce is also lacking sufficient amounts of iodine. Adequate intake of iodine was once a recognized problem that was solved by adding small amounts of iodine in the processing of table salt. Once this was done, the obvious symptoms of severe iodine deficiency largely disappeared from view, and little further thought was given to the matter. But today, many people have lowered their salt intake and now fail to get even that small amount of iodine in their diets. Many people have replaced processed iodized salt with sea salt, an obvious healthy alternative, except that sea salt does not naturally contain a significant amount of iodine.

Iodine has many actions in the body

Iodine deficiency can cause changes to the thyroid gland that directly lead to poor functioning of metabolism and immunity. Iodine deficiency promotes free radical damage in the thyroid gland that puts the gland itself at risk. Iodine blocks various toxic compounds from binding to and accumulating in the thyroid gland, such as fluoride, perchlorate, and goitrogens. Environmental pollution significantly aggravates a lack of iodine.

Iodine is in high concentration in the ovaries and breast tissue, acting as a buffer to the growth stimulating effects of estrogen and as a promoter of proper estrogen metabolism. Iodine assists the functioning of hormone receptors throughout the body, helping all hormones communicate more effectively. Thyroid hormone governs the rate of formation of steroid hormones, and thus governs the many functions of those hormones.

Iodine is essential for proper brain development and functioning. There have been many studies showing the importance of iodine during gestation when cognitive potential is formed. A mother with adequate iodine levels will be more likely to produce a child with superior brain development.


More recent research documents the importance of optimal iodine levels

A study reported in Endocrine Review found that iodine containing enzymes important to the action of the thyroid were also found to increase or decrease thyroid hormone signaling in a tissue- and temporal-specific fashion, independently of changes in thyroid hormone serum concentrations. It was clear to the researchers that these enzymes play a much broader role than was once thought, with great ramifications for the control of thyroid hormone signaling during fetal vertebrate development and metamorphosis, as well as injury response, tissue repair, hypothalamic function, and energy in adults.

The European Journal of Nutrition reported that the rapid rate of growth of the brain during the last third of gestation and the early postnatal stage makes it vulnerable to an inadequate diet. A deficiency of iodine during this critical period in brain development is associated with reduced intellectual ability.

Cancer Causes and Control reported a review of literature focused on risk factors for thyroid cancer. The researchers found that at present, the only recognized measures for reducing thyroid cancer risk are to avoid ionizing radiation and iodine deficiency, particularly for children and young women.

The World Health Organization has announced that iodine deficiency is a worldwide health problem. A considerable part of the population may actually be iodine deficient.

Iodine deficiency traditionally results in hypothyroidism, goiter, and cretinism. As reported in the journal Medical Hypotheses, researchers have hypothesized that iodine deficiency may also give rise to subtle impairment of thyroid function, leading to clinical syndromes resembling hypothyroidism or diseases that have been associated with the occurrence of hypothyroidism. They described several clinical conditions suspected to be linked to iodine deficiency, including obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia, and malignancies.

Molecular Nutrition and Food Research reported that iodine and selenium are essential for thyroid gland functioning and thyroid hormone biosynthesis and metabolism. While iodine is needed as a constituent of the two major thyroid hormones, T3 and T4, selenium is essential for the biosynthesis and function of small numbers of selenocysteine containing enzymes that control thyroid hormone turnover.

The Lancet reported that 2 billion individuals worldwide have insufficient iodine intake, producing adverse effects on growth and development due to inadequate production of thyroid hormone. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental impairment worldwide.

According to the Alternative Medicine Report , the safety of therapeutic doses of iodine above the established safe upper limit of 1 mg is evident in the lack of toxicity in the Japanese population that consumes 25 times the median intake of iodine consumed in the U.S. Japan’s population suffers no demonstrable increased incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis or hypothyroidism. Studies using 3.0 to 6.0 mg doses to effectively treat fibrocystic breast disease may reveal an important role for iodine in maintaining normal breast tissue architecture and function. Iodine may also have important antioxidant functions in breast tissue and other tissues that concentrate iodine.


Determining iodine deficiency

Due to the fact that iodine deficiency can have serious consequences, it is important for people to use an iodine supplement if they are not regularly getting adequate amounts from food. Good food sources of iodine are dairy products produced from cattle fed iodine-supplemented feed and salt licks, seafood, saltwater fish, seaweed, and kelp. Small amounts of iodine may also be found in asparagus, garlic, lima beans, mushrooms, sesame seed, spinach, chard, and summer squash. Some foods block the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland when eaten raw in large amounts, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, peaches, pears and spinach.

Pregnant women, the elderly and adolescents are more predisposed to iodine deficiency. More women than men are short on iodine. Other symptoms of iodine deficiency are weak heartbeat, dry hair and skin, swelling of the legs, decreased ability to concentrate, muscle cramps, puffiness or swelling of the eyes, and chronic aches and pains. Fatigue is a common symptom, characterized by the urge to fall asleep when not active. Hypersensitivity to cold, or cold hands and feet is another frequently reported symptom. When the metabolism is not up to par, there is less energy and heat produced.

Supplementing iodine

Even if you are using processed table salt on a regular basis, you are not necessarily getting an optimal amount of iodine. Processed salt is fortified with iodine only to the level at which it eliminates the most severe diseases associated with iodine deficiency. It does not contain anywhere near the amount of iodine needed to promote vibrant health or to reduce symptoms.

Iodine supplements remain in the body for only one day, so it is necessary to take them daily. Getting an iodine supplement that both iodine and iodide is a good choice.

If you are taking the thyroid hormone drug, Synthroid, be aware that this drug has been shown to deplete the thyroid and tissues of iodine.

See also:

Study Finds that Multivitamins and Calcium Slash Breast Cancer Risk

Breast Cancer: A Preventable Disease Through Good Nutrition

Latest in breast cancer treatment and prevention - Vitamin D

Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts Stop the Spread of Breast and Other Cancers

Breast Cancer Deception – Hiding the Truth beneath a Sea of Pink

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About the Author:

Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.

See other articles by the Barbara Minton here:

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